I've been fascinated about mirages and never thought I'd get to see a superior mirage. I live on the south coast of England and enjoy a distant view of the English channel. Last Friday 3 August 2018 at about 5pm, I took some photographs from my balcony which I'd love to hear whether they are superior mirages and how rare such a sighting is, particularly in England. I'm also interested to know what the peculiar twisting, foggy or cloudy like substance is in the heat haze in some of the pictures. I live 6.4 miles (10.3 km) from the sea and the camera elevation was 105ft (32 metre) above sea level. We have been experiencing higher than average temperatures for a prolonged time. Is it possible that my position allowed me to see this effect where people on the beach might not? The lines are electrical wires close to my house. Thank you for your help. Further to the first comment, these are ships, they were moving. Mark

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  • Possibly. I think that your images show a ship, and it could be a superior mirage, but I'm not 100% sure. Neat images. – D Duck Aug 10 at 3:57

You may notice that the foggy/cloudy like structures are about the same color as the ocean/sea. This is because they are indeed images of the sea. They appear a bit irregularly sometimes because they are from different locations horizontally and the temperature gradient that causes the mirage isn't always perfectly smooth in some places.

To answer weather people on the beach could see the mirage, the answer is probably no. This is particularly true if the actual ships are very close to the shore as they appear here. This is because the light has to have space to travel in the arc due to refraction to give the mirage effect(that is finally curve downward to reach your eye so the image appears in the sky) but for the people on the beach the bending light may pass over their heads or they can directly see the ships from where they are but not the light that makes the mirage possible. Here's a ray diagram to help you understand better(edits done on Paint so excuse the quality):

  • The shipping lane is 12 miles out. There is a light tower (The Royal Sovereign Light) at 6 miles so no large shipping would come within that distance. My estimate is that the ships in my pictures are between 18 and 20 miles away (29-32km). The Royal Sovereign Light Tower is unique to England’s south coast. It is a light tower (as opposed to a light house) that was built in the 1970s to mark the shallow reefs that are a danger to local shipping and it replaced earlier light ships. – Mark Allen Aug 11 at 12:18

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